Elsa Schiaparelli was an Italian Fashion Designer in the 1920s through to 50s. She was inspired by the Surealists (Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau) and Dadaism (Man Ray, Francis Picabia). Whilst born in Rome she spent much of her life in New York and Paris. In Paris she met Paul Poiret, a leading fashion designer of the 1920s. Her initial work featured knitwear with trompe l’oeil images, for example a knitted sweater with a sailors bib design knitted into the front and back. Schiaparelli used embellishments, novel print designs and fastenings to create unusual garments. She experimented with new stretchy fabrics and the tailoring possibilities these presented such as the wrap dress style.
Her colours were often strong, using bright pinks, mauves and blues, all made possible by aniline dyes introduced at the end of the previous century. Much of the ‘novelty’ of her work has been incorporated into digital design styles today where designers such as Mary Katrantzou create prints with similar trompe l’oeil motifs and embellishments. Digital textiles owe a lot of their look to Schiaparelli’s style.
Here is an image of her home, taken by Mark Shaw, of a model posing on a Schiaparelli designed sofa.